The annual new 2013 vintage tasting for the small (around 60ha) appellation of Bellet is always extremely civilised. With only twelve domaines, each showing three to five wines, it is easy to taste all the wines in one morning, to chat to the producers and the other tasters, largely sommeliers working in the hotels, restaurants and wine shops of the Cotes d’Azur, and enjoy a light lunch together. Very few, if any, tasters come from outside the region and the wines of this appellation remain very much the wines of the wine connoisseurs of Nice.
This year was no exception. Set in the conference/tasting room at Chateau de Crémat, hosted by Cornelis and Jarmilla Kamerbeek, the room was flooded with spring sunlight and tasters could look over Nice, reminding us that this is very much an urban appellation. Views to the south of the Mediterranean and the foothills of the Alps to the north were reminders of two of the major influences on the microclimate of the region. Despite the early date (24th March) for this year’s event, it was warm and sunny enough for lunch outside on the terrace.
The tasting itself was of particular interest due to the weather in 2013. A cold, wet and long spring which had set ripening back by two to three weeks delaying harvest time into the wetter autumn season. Quantity was down, how were the wines?
Bernard Nicoletti of Domaine de Toasc, said that Rolle (Vermentino) vines often have two bunches in each main bunch. In a good year they are harvested together, with the smaller, interior bunch providing the acidity. In 2013, the extra acidity was not required, so in some cases, two harvests were carried out when the second bunch was riper. The winemaker at Chateau de Bellet mentioned that unusually, instead of all the Rolle being harvested before the late-ripening Braquet, in many cases the Rolle was harvested after the Braquet.
Overall, the impression of the wines from this tasting was one of freshness.
Bellet AC stipulates a minimum of 60% Rolle, but in actual fact, most are 100-95% Rolle.
Of the white wines, the best un-oaked wines showed the typical Rolle lemon and cream fruit with a fresh mineral edge and good acidity. Toasc 2013 and Chateau de Bellet Baron G 013 also showed perfumed floral notes, Domaine St Jean 2013 was balanced by a stoney mineral finish, with less of the candied lemon peel character of previous years. Chateau de Bellet Chapelle 2013 had a fine balance of high acidity and intense, rich dried fruit. This last was so much more intense than the other wines that I asked the winemaker what was different. Despite being made in the same way as the Baron G white, the grapes for Chapelle came from 45 year old vines (there are few very old vines in the appellation) and from a particular parcel facing south west and at a higher altitude. The cooler location meant that the grapes were harvested a week later, and the long slow ripening period contributed to the intensity of fruit.
The oak-aged whites were largely less successful – the one that worked best for me was the white Clos St Vincent 2012. Fermented and aged in oak, the wine had a rich round texture with a dry finish without the any oak character dominating the fresh lemony character of the Rolle. As the owner Gio Sergi proudly admitted, the wine had held its own in a blind tasting of white Burgundies.
St Jean 2012 had been aged in barrel for 10 months and was still very young with the oak strongly dominating the fruit. Domaine Fogolar-Collet de Bovis 2011 slightly oaked with ripe soft lemon fruit and a creamy finish.
Of the rosés, all 2013, and predominately Braquet, my favourite styles showed the variety’s typical fragrant floral and red fruit character. The rosés of Collet de Bovis, Toasc and Chateau de Bellet’s Baron G’s (100% Braquet), were fresh with cream and red berry fruit. St Jean and Clos St Vincent, also both 100% Braquet, showed more structural rosés with ripe red fruit, good weight and structure in a more gastronomic style. (Domaine Vinceline and Clos Nicea do not produce a rosé and of the others, the wines were either not yet bottled or recently bottled and very closed.)
The reds divided clearly into two – those made with a high percentage of Braquet, which typically has good freshness, red fruit and floral characters, and those made with more Folle Noir which tends to have heavier floral aromas with darker fruit, slightly more savoury tannins and greater weight. Only Clos Nicea showed a red wine from 2013, the others included a range of vintages from 2012, 2011 and the remaining 2010 vintage from the larger estates of Crémat and Toasc.
Julia Augusta 2011 was supple, fresh and with good acidity with floral, rose aromas. Collet de Bovis 2012 had floral, leafy fruit, black chocolate tannins and fresh acidity and the 2011 fresh red fruit, inky tannins and fresh acidity. Both Chateau de Bellet’s Baron G 2012 and Clos Nicea 2013 (made by the winemaker at Crémat) showed a leafy freshness and red fruit juicy freshness.
Best examples of the more Folle Noir dominated reds included Toasc 2011 (black fruit, chewy acidity and firm savoury tannins) and 2010 (similar in style but slightly less savoury), while Crémat 2010 had firm mineral tannins. St Vincent 2012, Domaine St Jean 2012 and Domaine de La Source 2011 had aromatic floral and spice notes – reminiscent of the traditional carnation and cedar aromas of Bellet – said to come from the neighbouring greenhouses filled with carnations which used to cover the hillsides in-between the vineyards. Vinceline 2012 made with young Folle Noir is lighter than the others but still shows the typical floral and black fruit character.